On Wednesday, January 5, 2022, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a pardon for civil rights activist Homer Plessy, 130 years after his arrest, trial and conviction, for protesting against racism. Homer Plessy's landmark case, Plessy v. Ferguson, was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where all White judges ruled in a 7-1 majority against him, reinforcing the racist "separate but equal" doctrine in the U.S and setting the foundation of the Jim Crow regime in the US southern states.
The racist Separate Car Act of 1890: "Equal but separate accommodations" for White and Black passengers.
On June 7, 1892, the then 30 years old civil rights activist Homer Plessy, a New Orleans shoemaker who was one-eighth Black but who described himself as "mostly White", purchased a first-class ticket on the East Louisiana Railway. He boarded in a car assigned for White passengers. He was arrested and charged with violating Louisiana's Separate Car Act of 1890. The act required railway companies to provide "equal but separate accommodations" for White and Black passengers.
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When he bought the ticket, Homer Plessy, a civil rights activist, expected that he would be arrested or forced off the train. When he boarded the White reserved car, the conduction asked him whether he was a "colored" man, which Plessy responded that he was. Asked to leave the first-class White reserved car and move to the "Colored" car, Plessly, refused to move out, saying that he intended on staying in the car, given that he had paid forr first-class.
The conductor stopped the train, asked for reinforcements from White passangers, seized and dragged Plessy off the car. Plessy was detained by the police, jailed, and charged with violating the "Separate Car Act".
He was condemned by the lower courts. At the appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court, with all White judges , ruled in a 7-1 majority against him, reinforcing the racist "separate but equal" doctrine in the U.S and the foundation of the Jim Crow regime in the US southern states.
It would not be until 1954 when the Supreme Court would rule in Brown v. Board of Education that the separate but equal doctrine was ruled to be inherently unequal.
In June 2006, the Louisiana legislative body enacted the Avery C. Alexander Act, under La. Stat. tit. 15 § 572.9, a bill which grants pardons to people who were convicted of violating laws that enforced racial segregation. La. Stat. tit. 15 § 572.9
In November 2021, referring to the Avery C. Alexander Act, the Louisiana board voted to pardon Homer Plessy. Hence, 125 years after his conviction, Homer Plessy finally had his name cleared.
Executing the pardon, almost 130 years later, Governor Edwards held a pardoning ceremony near the spot where Homerr Plessy was dragged, abused and arrested. The ceremony was attended by the relatives of both Homer Plessy and Judge John Howard Ferguson, who convicted him.
The pardon is a significant milestone, the first posthumous pardon under the Avery C. Alexander Act.
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